Journal archives for September 2020

September 07, 2020

A Jumble of Legs: Huntsman Spider Preys on a House Centipede in Malaysia! - Observation of the Week, 9/7/20

Our Observation of the Week is this many-legged scene of a huntsman spider and its house centipede prey, seen in Malaysia by @msone!

Dr. Masatoshi Sone is a professor of paleontology at Universiti Malaya, and he describes his field as “about half-geology half-biology, so I do like the taxonomic identification and systematics of life.” While he was a keen naturalist as an undergraduate student, his attention turned toward the “ancient” environment until about two years ago, when insect macro photography reignited his interest in the “modern” environment.  “I soon found iNaturalist introduced by biology students of my current university,” he tells me. “Since then, I carry my camera with a macro lens while I do geology fieldwork in the jungle.”

Masatoshi took his family on a trip to the eastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia during last year’s holiday break, and says “[I] love to go finding insects in the coastal bush at night, because life there is a little different from what I usually see in the Kuala Lumpur area or in the western side of the peninsula.” He came across the spider and centipede while out exploring one night, and says

honestly speaking, my first impression was that the scene was just ‘messy’, as there were so many long, thin appendages lying over the leaf. I soon recognised it was another large arthropod, Prey! but was not sure what it was. After I came back to my room and checked the photos, I even got more shocked and excited. It was a big centipede (with long thin appendages of definitely more than 8), and the prey was even larger than the predator. I've never observed some large Scutigeromorpha (house centipedes), but as they are alive they should usually look even more scary than huntsman spiders. Then, I understand why this dead one looked harmless, and it was perhaps an immature one, still medium-sized.  

Giant huntsman spiders (Genus Heteropoda) are native to Asia and Australia, and as you might surmise they do not spin webs in order to catch their prey. Rather, they stalk and pounce on their prey, then inject it with venom to immobilize it. The Giant Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda maxima), found in Laos, is the largest spider in the world if one is going by legspan - its legspan is about 30 cm (1 ft). 

You’ve probably encountered a house centipede at some point in your life. The most common species, Scutigera coleoptrata, originated in the Mediterranean but can now be found on pretty much every continent besides Antarctica, and they are quite comfortable living indoors. Their stings (centipedes don’t “bite,” venom is injected by modified forelegs) is not considered medically significant to humans. 

Masatoshi (above, looking for dragonflies in Borneo), explains that he initially started using iNaturalist because he respects and agree with the concept of citizen science (“This is perhaps because I am a professional scientist and I know the constraints of ‘professional science’.”), but “purely I enjoy making observations and identifications of what I observe. In principle, I try to participate in and enjoy iNat purely as an amateur naturalist (for biology and ecology, yes I am), separate from my science profession.”

And in that respect, he says that iNaturalist has changed the way he sees and interacts with nature “Definitely and dramatically.” He brings up, this photo of a common tit caterpillar surrounded by asian weaver ants. In the field, he was curious about the interaction and 

Just a few hours after I posted my observation to iNat, my question was solved perfectly with some comments from other like-minded I understand, ants were abducting this poor caterpillar to their nest. iNat is not just the database for making identifications but is the place of having support and exchange of knowledge.

- You can check out Masatoshi's home page here!

- House centipedes have 15 pairs of legs, so there might be up to 38 legs in this observation! 

- Here’s some nice footage of a Giant Huntsman stalking prey in Laos. Unfortunately it’s saddled with overwrought narration, music, and foley effects. But worth watching!

Posted on September 07, 2020 07:20 PM by tiwane tiwane | 11 comments | Leave a comment

September 15, 2020

Using a Taxon Split input as an output

We’ve introduced a new way to use Taxon Splits that gives curators more flexibility. Here’s some background before explaining the change. If this background is already familiar to you jump ahead to the second to last section titled Using the Taxon Split input as the output.

Taxon Swaps
On iNaturalist if you want to change the main scientific name associated with a taxon (e.g. from Species X to Species Y) you do the following steps:

  1. Create a new inactive taxon with the name Species Y
  2. Create a draft Taxon Swap with Species X as the input and Species Y as the output
  3. Commit the Taxon Swap


Why do all this instead of just changing the name on the taxon? Just changing the name would mean that if an identifier typed in an identification of Species X it might unexpectedly change to Species Y without any record of what happened. Create a taxon swap leaves a record so identifiers can see when, how, and why the name associated with their identification changed.


Let’s call this updating identifications. We’re aware that this might not be the easiest, least disruptive way to generate such a log, especially when the name changes are trivial such as going from Cnemaspis hitihami to Cnemaspis hitihamii. But under the current functionality, taxon swaps are always used to change the main scientific name of a taxon.

As shown above, taxon swaps have a single output which means all identifications of the input taxon can be unambiguously updated with identifications of the output taxon. Likewise, other content associated with the input taxon, such as taxon names (where iNaturalist stores common names and synonyms), taxon ranges, listed taxa etc., is moved or copied over to the output taxon*. Committing a taxon swap also makes the input taxon inactive and activates inactive output taxa.

Using Taxon Swaps to Lump Taxa
Another common curation action is to lump one taxon into another (e.g. Species X into Species Z). A taxon swap can also be used to do this by making Species X the input and the already active Species Z as the output. As described above, committing the taxon swap will inactivate Species X, update all identifications, and copy/move other content over to Species Z.


One thing to keep in mind when using Taxon Swaps to lump taxa is that lumping often broadens what we mean by the output taxon. In this example Species Z’s taxon range to the east no longer matches its newly broadened meaning and would need to be manually modified to include the western part of the range. Similarly, imagine Species X’s common name was "Western Critter" and Species Z’s common name was "Eastern Critter". Post-swap, Species’ Z’s common name might need to be updated to something like "Critter".


Several uses for Taxon Merges
If you want to lump two or more taxa (Species X and Species Q) into an existing taxon (Species Z) you can use a Taxon Merge. Taxon Merges work like taxon swaps but have multiple input taxa. Since there’s just a single output taxon, identifications and content are also migrated to the output taxon*.


Taxon Merges can also be used to lump taxa slightly differently. Imagine that rather than manually broadening all the content associated with Species Z you prefer to just make a new taxon for Species Z. Let's call it Species Z’. It would start out inactive, would have the same main scientific name as Species Z, but would have a different broader meaning and thus different broader content such as range maps.

Committing the Taxon Merge would inactivate the input Species Z and activate the broader output Species Z', identifications of Species Z would be updated with identifications of Species Z’ and all other content would be copied to Species Z’.


This approach requires more steps than just manually broadening Species Z (Species Z’ must be created etc.) and perhaps unnecessarily updates all the identifications of Species Z with Species Z` (unnecessary since both taxa have the same the main scientific name). So this way of lumping taxa is generally not preferred, but it is an option available to curators.

Taxon Splits
To carve one taxon off from another (e.g. Species W off from Species X) we use Taxon Splits. Taxon splits have a single input and more than one output. The only way to make taxon splits in the past was to create new inactive taxa for the carved-off taxon (Species W) and for the new narrowed version of the input taxon (Species X’).


Since splits have more than one output taxon, identifications are updated to the common ancestor of the outputs. Other content such as range maps and names are not copied over to the output taxa and must be added manually*.


Atlases provide some flexibility for determining a single output taxon with which to update identifications. Using the example of the atlases below, identifications associated with observations in Western Australia (WA) and South Australia (SA) would be updated with output taxon Species X’ while identifications belonging to observations in Queensland (QLD) would be updated with output taxon Species W. Only identifications belonging to observations within presence places in both atlases (e.g. Northern Territory, NT) or outside of both atlases (e.g. New South Wales) would be updated with the common ancestor.


Using the Taxon Split input as the output
Sometimes only a tiny piece of a taxon is carved off as a new taxon. When the input taxon has a lot of identifications this cran result in many unecessary identification updates (e.g. Species X with Species X’).

We’ve made some changes that allow curators the flexibility, if they choose, to make Taxon Splits where the input taxon is also one of the output taxa. In some ways, this approach is analogous to using a taxon swap to broaden an existing taxon (e.g. Species X) instead of using a taxon merge with a new output taxon (e.g. Species X’) as was described above. In this approach, the input taxon is first manually narrowed by modifying the atlas (as well as other content such as range map, etc.) which will be used to determine the destination of identifications.


Upon committing such a Taxon Split, iNaturalist will not inactivate the input taxon. It will still use the atlases to determine which identifications should be updated with which output taxon, but any identification determined to be updated with the output taxon matching the input (e.g. Species X) will not be touched.

Because doing a split this way won’t update as many identifications (e.g. updating identifications of Species X with identifications of Species X’), it will always be less disruptive. But it’s important to remember to manually narrow the input taxon by updating content such as the taxon range and common names that likely no longer match the narrowed meaning taxon after the split.

There are some advantages from the normal way of splitting taxa such as having the inactivated input taxon (Species X) persist alongside the narrowed taxon (Species X’) coexisting in the database for a more thorough comparison of how the taxon was narrowed. However, as iNaturalist has grown, it is our feeling that the disruptive costs both in terms of processing time and in terms of identification clutter of having so many updated identifications (e.g. Species X to Species X’) now outweighs these advantages, especially when there are a lot of identifications on the input taxon (Species X) that are not destined to be carved off (e.g. as Species W). As long as curators remember to manually narrow content such as taxon ranges, we anticipate that this new way of splitting taxa will generally be the preferred way to split taxa moving forward.

Here are two examples of this new kind of taxon split I committed. The first involved splitting two Caribbean island endemics (Boa orophias on St. Lucia and, Boa nebulosa on Dominica) off from Boa constrictor. Notice that the same Boa constrictor taxon is listed as both the input and an output.

As expected, this observation from St. Lucia was properly updated to Boa orophias whereas this captive observation outside of all three atlases was updated to Genus Boa. And this observation from within the range of Boa constrictor was untouched.

Similarly, this split involved splitting two species (Varanus tsukamotoi from Guam and other Pacific Islands and Varanus bennetti from several other islands including Palau) off from Varanus indicus. Again note that the same taxon Varanus indicus acts as both input and output.

As expected, this observation from Palau was updated as Varanus bennetti, this observation from Guam was updated as Varanus tsukamotoi, and this observation from Papua was untouched.

Note that in both of these examples, I manually narrowed both the taxon range and atlas of the input taxa before committing the splits.

*The details about which content is copied over and which is moved over to the output taxon when a taxon change is committed is complicated. Here’s an attempt to explain exactly what happens. In both a taxon swap and a taxon merge, taxon photos and taxon names are copied over. The copy of the valid scientific name from the input taxon is invalid (a synonym) on the output taxon. Taxon swaps, but not taxon merges, copy the taxon range, conservation statuses, and atlas from the input (unless a taxon range or atlas or conservation status for the same place already exists on the output taxon). Listed taxa are moved/merged from the input taxon to the output taxon for both taxon swaps and taxon merges. For taxon splits, no content is copied over (since the output taxon is ambiguous). Listed taxa are moved to a single output taxon if atlases can be used to uniquely determine one, much like atlases are used to update identifications.

Posted on September 15, 2020 01:54 AM by loarie loarie | 36 comments | Leave a comment

September 20, 2020

50 million observations on iNaturalist!

Thank you for your role in reaching this milestone! Help support iNaturalist as we grow.


As of September 20, 2020, iNaturalist has more than 50 million records of wild biodiversity with photos or sounds to allow verification by the community. This year, despite a pandemic and numerous natural disasters, the resilient iNaturalist community continues to forge new connections and discoveries. It has been just 13 months since we passed 25 million observations—continuing iNaturalist’s trend of roughly doubling the number of observations and participants each year since 2012.

Where and what are those 50 million observations? Let’s look at them as dots where each represents 250,000 observations.

Imagine 50 million observations are represented by 200 dots

123 of the 200 dots are of plants and insects. Fish are represented by just 2 dots.

How many dots from each species category?

133 of the 200 dots are from in North America. Africa and South America have the fewest dots.

How many dots are from each continent?

Here's a few more ways to visualize iNaturalist's growth that may be familiar. The graph below shows the number of observations posted each month since iNaturalist was launched in 2008. The site has been roughly doubling each year and there is a pronounced uptick in the northern hemisphere spring and summer. For comparison, it took until November 2014 (or six and a half years) for iNaturalist to reach the first million observations. We broke 3 million observations per month for the first time this year.

Observations Over Time

Screenshot 2023-07-27 at 10.44.00 AM

This map shows the number of observations by country. Just over half of all iNaturalist observations are from the United States.

Observations by Country

iNaturalist is growing differently in different places. In 21 of the top 50 countries with the most observations, the number of observations posted in 2020 is at least double the number posted by this date in 2019. These countries are shown below in descending order. Finland was the fastest growing country this year by this metric. Finland was one of five countries to join the iNaturalist Network of localized iNaturalist portals launched in the last year, along with Ecuador, Australia, Argentina, and Israel. More are in progress.

Where the rate of observations has at least doubled in the last year

Screenshot 2023-07-27 at 10.43.39 AM

In 25 of the top 50 countries, iNaturalist has grown in 2020 compared to 2019, but not quite doubled.

Where the rate of observations has grown but not quite doubled since last year

Screenshot 2023-07-27 at 10.43.13 AM

In 4 of the top 50 countries, fewer observations have been posted in 2020 compared to 2019. All four of these countries had very large City Nature Challenge events in 2019 (notice the peaks around April 2019). The fact that the pandemic made it more difficult to organize in-person events in 2020 probably accounts for the relatively fewer observations this year, even though the baseline of activity throughout the year has increased.

Where the rate of observations has not grown compared to last year

Screenshot 2023-07-27 at 10.42.57 AM

This week on social media we’ll be highlighting observations and stories from each inhabited continent on a different day. You can follow iNaturalist on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

iNaturalist’s Impact

Each of these 50 million observations is an invitation to a conversation about what was seen and its identification. The power of iNaturalist comes from the connections and discussions it enables across borders and levels of professional experience—and the open biodiversity data it creates.

For example, Canadian photographer @pbertner posted photos of of a myco-heterotrophic plant in Peru, which was identified by @kai_schablewski, a botanist in Germany, as Tiputinia foetida - hundreds of kilometers from its only previously known location in eastern Ecuador. And iNat users in both California and Australia collaborated to identify a mysterious sunfish on the shores of Santa Barbara as Mola tecta - the first documented sighting of this species in the northern hemisphere since the late 1800s! Since then, @lauren99 posted a Mola tecta photo from 2015, taken off of the California coast.

@sultana, whose primary interest is malacology, posted some old photos of a weasel caught in his parents’ bathroom, and the iNat community identified them as the first known photos of a living Colombian weasel - perhaps the rarest South American carnivore. And recently @lcollingsparker posted a cicada observation (from her blueberry bushes), which researchers identified as Okanagana arctostaphylae. It was the first known sighting of this species since it was described in 1915!

And in some cases, iNaturalist observations have even led to the description of entirely new species, like the recently described Phidippus pacosauritus jumping spider, first documented in Paco’s Reserva de Flora y Fauna in Mexico.

Conversations about species identifications are happening all over social media, but iNaturalist captures that dialogue in a structured way that enables searching and reuse that is unique. iNaturalist is rapidly becoming invaluable for biodiversity research through the sheer volume, taxonomic diversity, and geographic range of data enabled by the collective efforts of the global community.

In addition to being explored on and exported from the iNaturalist website, the Research-Grade records are regularly shared with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). GBIF brings together records from museum specimens as well as many different citizen science and monitoring efforts. Although far from the largest dataset on GBIF, records from the iNaturalist dataset have been cited more than any other—804 times to date!

Beyond the traditional application of occurrence data that captures what, where, and when, a new trend of biodiversity research is beginning based on characters in the photographic evidence.

iNaturalist photos capture the timing of seasonal events (phenology), and studies on organisms as diverse as mountain goats, Yucca flowers, and Alligator lizard mating are using iNaturalist observations to fill major gaps.

Sometimes photos capture more species than originally expected, like pathogens. Two recent studies on flowers and fish both examined observation photos of the host species for evidence of the pathogens, which can considerably expand the availability of distribution information beyond museum specimens and targeted inventories (which cannot be replaced by iNaturalist, but complemented).

iNaturalist has the fuel for countless studies of phenotypic variation at a scale unimaginable before digital cameras and GPS. For example, thousands of observations of the widespread blue dasher dragonfly were used as part of a study of wing color variation and climate across North America by @moore-evo-eco.

...Because we are now accumulating this remarkable collection of time-stamped photographs of every manner of plant, animal, and fungi through iNaturalist and similar platforms, we're potentially going to have a digitized record of how each of these organisms evolve over the next few decades. We'll be able to watch evolution occurring on a grand scale. From a purely academic perspective, it's every evolutionary biologist's dream. —Dr. Michael Moore (@moore-evo-eco)

We weren’t sure what to expect when the global pandemic struck. Many grassroots events that typically attract and orient new participants were canceled. Amazingly, iNaturalist activity didn’t slow down, but continued apace despite the pandemic. Instead of exploring on trips, people are finding new and exciting discoveries in their homes, neighborhoods, and local parks. Many people have shared on the iNaturalist Forum how important iNaturalist has been to them during the pandemic by providing a way for them to explore outdoors, learn about nature, and connect with others in a safe way. Biodiversity is everywhere! We have so much yet to learn. What else will you discover thanks to iNaturalist?

iNaturalist needs your support

People and the rest of biodiversity face many challenges ahead. At every moment of the day, iNaturalist is building connections among nature enthusiasts, sharing knowledge across borders, and supporting millions of records that offer crucial insights and opportunities to change course. As iNaturalist grows, so do the costs to maintain it. We know that these are difficult times, but if you are inspired and able, can you donate to support this cause?




iNaturalist is a not-for-profit joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, and all donations are received by the California Academy of Sciences (Tax ID: 94-1156258).

Thank you to the millions of people who have shared their observations and expertise. iNaturalist would be nothing without curious people who care about biodiversity—it has an impact because of what you do to support it!

By Carrie Seltzer, Tony Iwane, Abhas Misraraj, and Scott Loarie

Posted on September 20, 2020 01:23 PM by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 50 comments | Leave a comment

September 21, 2020

A Stunning Punctured Tiger Beetle Seen in Canada - Observation of the Week, 9/21/20

Our Observation of the Week is this Punctured Tiger Beetle (Cicindèle Ponctuée), seen in Canada by @jeongyoo!

“I have loved watching insects since my childhood, fascinated by their near endless diversity,” says Jeong Yoo, a graduate student in entomology. 

Whenever the opportunity provides, I take a hike to small urban parks in my neighborhood, take a sit, and observe and photograph the insects. Though I’m into all insects in general, my favorite is and will always be Chalcid wasps (a group of mostly parasitic wasps). As an avid student of Chalcidoidea systematics, I’ve been working on various Chalcidoidea research projects with Dr. Chris Darling at the Royal Ontario Museum

Tiger beetles, Jeong tells me, are among the most difficult insects to photograph (which I can attest to) because they are so fast, so skittish, and have great vision. So he originally thought this one was dead because it kept still as he approached.

So I was very surprised when the beetle flinched as I removed the grass for clear shots! Fortunately, the beetle was kind enough to stay a little longer for me to take a few shots before scurrying off, presumably to sleep somewhere else. I was very lucky to photograph this beautiful beetle.

As you can tell from Jeong’s excellent photos, tiger beetles have some impressive mandibles, which they use to catch, kill, and consume their prey after chasing it down. At least one species has been clocked at running 2.5 meters per second, which is the equivalent of about 125 body lengths per second. And interestingly, they’ll often stop briefly to reorient themselves because they’re not able to process enough visual information at those speeds. This particular species, Jeong tells me, gets its common name from the “green punctures lining the length of its elytra.”

While he’s always enjoyed sharing this photos of insects, Jeong (above) credits Dr. Darling with encouraging him to use iNat. 

I soon realised that iNaturalist is an excellent tool for deepening our knowledge and appreciation for the natural world. Since then, I’ve been vigorously taking and uploading insect photos to my iNaturalist project, hoping for whatever small contributions they would make. I would be happy to see people other than myself stooping down in the park to watch insects.

- The Royal Ontario Museum is one of the organizations managing iNaturalist Canada!

- Nice overview of tiger beetles by Florida Museum PhD student Harlan Gough.

- Roll that beatiful tiger beetle footage!

Posted on September 21, 2020 09:35 PM by tiwane tiwane | 16 comments | Leave a comment

September 29, 2020

The First Documented Male-Male Combat in Black-banded Snakes! - Observation of the Week, 9/28/20

Our Observation of the Week is this pair of Black-banded snakes (serpiente come ciempiés - Scolecophis atrocinctus), seen in Costa Rica by @elainechernov!

Elaine Chernov, a designer from the Los Angeles area, and herpetologists Erich P Hofmann (@ephofmann, based in North Carolina, US) and Wolfgang Wüster (@wolfgang_wuster, based in the UK) recently published a Natural History Note in Herpetological Review [PDF] about this observation, which is likely the first documented instance of male-male combat in this species! But according to Elaine, someone else also deserves credit: “My 6 year-old son, Miles, actually deserves some credit. He saw the snakes first!”

Elaine and her two children spend a good amount of time in Costa Rica, as her parents have retired there. “I try to get out into all the beautiful preserved land they have there as much as I can,” she says.

Rincón de la Vieja is the closest volcanic national park to my family's house, so my son and I went for a day trip to hike up to a beautiful waterfall to start off the new year. He was such a trooper—we hiked for 4 hours, and on the way back he spotted these snakes on the ground. I thought maybe they were mating, so I loudly proclaimed, "Aww they are hugging!" to him hoping for limited questions about what they might be doing.

So, she posted the snakes to iNaturalist. Erich P Hofmann, currently a biology instructor at Cape Fear Community College in North Carolina, tells me he has taxon subscriptions “set up for several cryptic, fossorial/semi-fossorial snake species I’m particularly interested in and/or have conducted research on, including Scolecophis and Homoroselaps.” Because these snakes are so small and are often hiding under the leaf litter, they are not often seen (as of now, only thirty-four have been observed on iNat) and “because they are rarely encountered, very little is known about their natural history, and behavioral data is especially lacking.”

Elaine’s observation, then, was intriguing, and soon Erich and Wolfgang (who is based in the UK) began discussing it, as well as sharing it on Facebook. Other herpetologists such as Harry Greene and Gordon Schuett weighed in and suggested it was worth publishing. “Elaine was keen to collaborate on publishing the observation” says Erich, “and she shared with us additional photos and a video of the snakes that she took, which was a phenomenal additional piece–not only an incredibly lucky observation of a rare snake species engaged in a potentially unreported behavior, but one with video that could be further examined!”

Both Erich and Wolfgang tell me that male-male combat is pretty well known among larger snakes such as rattlesnakes and other vipers, as well as long-bodied colubrids like those in the genus Pituophis. Erich explains,

[it’s] generally a kind of wrestling match: in larger-bodied taxa like rattlesnakes (Crotalus), combat consists of two posturing snakes moving and entwining their bodies, raising their heads and anterior trunks, and repeatedly attempting to “pin” the head and neck of the other snake until eventually one concedes. Similarly, in smaller-bodied snakes like coral snakes (Micrurus), two snakes intertwine their bodies, sometimes rolling and spinning around, and again try to gain dominance over their opponent by moving their head and neck above their opponent’s head and neck. However, the lifting of the head and anterior trunk isn’t seen–as we understand it, combat takes place mostly horizontally in smaller snakes. Biting appears to be rare in either case; it is really more of a physical match.

After doing some research, Erich and Wolfgang only found two examples of small colubrid snakes (in the genus Sonora) engaging in male-male combat, so it’s not common, or at least not commonly observed, in small snakes. Elaine’s observation was the first known documentation of such behavior in this species, although the two herpetologists note that because the snakes were not sexed, there’s a possibility the snakes were two different sexes. But in all likelihood both snakes are male, as the behavior hews closely to other documented male-male combat. “It was a really great example of citizen science and social media connecting observations and those able to make the most of them, and adding a little brick to the edifice of our knowledge of the natural world,” says Wolfgang.

Elaine (above, with her children) tells me she shared and discussed her notes, photos, and video with Erich and Wolfgang, then “walked around gloating about being a published scientist to anyone that would listen.” She uses iNaturalist to learn about what she sees, and she’s also helping her daughter (who’s now “obsessed with bugs”) ID her finds. “I'm a single mom with two very young kids using the app to be able to tell them what the thing we saw while out on a hike was called,” she says.

Wolfgang, a snake expert, has contributed nearly 37,000 IDs to iNaturalist, and says he likes using it for several reasons: coming across new locations for the species he studies, honing his ID skills (“with a whole bunch of other highly experienced naturalists on the platform, you are kept on your toes, and you soon relearn humility when you screw up!”), data for niche modeling and just as a social platform.“There are some incredibly knowledgeable and talented people on iNaturalist that don't otherwise use social media,” he says,  

and that I would not have come to interact with without this platform. And also, it's a great bastion of positivity in a social media landscape dominated by politics, news (usually depressing) and discord - we are all here for the same reason, brought together by what unites us rather than by what divides us. That is something to be treasured in these fractious times...While I would advocate a little bit of extra care in managing potential impacts on sensitive species, the overall balance sheet is very much positive!

For his part, Erich notes that platforms like iNat can bring together people from around the world, as the people participating here hail from “California, North Carolina, and the UK, and the observation took place in Costa Rica!

There have been many iNaturalist observations that have ended up published as natural history notes or used in datasets for larger papers, but even seemingly “normal” observations of everyday taxa help to clarify our understanding of the natural world. Many people now have cameras in their pockets, and take pictures just to learn more about a plant or animal; by sharing them to platforms like iNaturalist, these simple pictures can be seen by experts, and may spark discussions, give rise to new hypotheses, or lay the foundation for future studies. Natural history is the foundation of good scientific inquiry in biology, and the collection of natural history data used to be restricted essentially only to scientists in the field. Now, citizen/community scientists are adding important new pieces to the overall puzzle of biodiversity and natural history of organisms on Earth simply by taking photos of things they encounter, and wanting to learn more about them. It all starts with the observers, and I’m very happy that Elaine shared her photo on iNaturalist and was open and excited about publishing the observation!

- Herpetologist @gregpauly noted that the black-banded snake publication “is 1 of 8 that reference iNaturalist observations in this issue of Herpetological Review. Plus, one book review and one research summary also mention iNaturalist. So, 10 different articles referencing iNaturalist in one journal issue!” You can download it by section at

- Here’s some footage of king cobra males engaging in combat. 

Posted on September 29, 2020 12:11 AM by tiwane tiwane | 12 comments | Leave a comment